Stockton Loses Airline Flights Before They Start

Monday, June 5, 2006
Airport has bumpy ride in May
The Stockton (CA) Record

Being manager of the Stockton Metropolitan Airport is a career track to gray hair, wrinkles, bags under your eyes and, maybe, depression. Hey, Barry Rondinella, stay away from mirrors. And if depression is setting in, I know a good doc. Rondinella had a rough May. Earlier he was, er … flying high. He had Aeromexico ready to provide jet service to Mexico. He had interest in Stockton-to-Mexico flights from another airline, Mexicana. He had Allegiant Air ready to provide Stockton to Las Vegas service. For the first time since September 2003 when America West Airlines flew away, Stockton might, might, have regularly scheduled passenger service to places people actually wanted to go. Phoenix-based America West could fly San Joaquin residents practically anywhere, but they had to willing to go to Arizona first. Not so good if you’re headed to, say, Seattle.

But on May Day, Rondinella had two Mexican airlines willing to provide service. Many area residents vacation there and have family ties there. In addition, Las Vegas-based Allegiant said it was coming to Stockton. A gamblers’ specials to some. A convenient, low-cost family destination to others.

Then along came May and and a lot of bumpy air.

There were delays and higher costs for the airport customs inspection station. Then Menlo Worldwide, part of UPS, made it pretty clear it is about to leave Stockton as UPS consolidates. Then there was a letter from Aeromexico fretting about 2,500-home development near the airport. Then there was Supervisor Leroy Ornellas gnashing his teeth: “I don’t appreciate a Mexican government-owned business poking its nose into our local land-use issues.” (Who does Ornellas think he is, a U.S. senator?). And then, on the last day of the month, U.S. customs officials told Rondinella, Nope, you can’t have an inspection station at the airport. We’ve got them in the Bay Area and Sacramento.

No inspection station. No flights to Mexico. No need to change the airport name to Stockton World International Flyport.

“We don’t think this is the final answer,” Rondinella said. No, but it’s not a very good answer, either.

Look, we’ve tried again and again with the big and not-so-big commercial carriers since the airline industry was deregulated and subsidies disappeared. America West was a fiasco that left many in the community grumbling. Our problem: We are too close to too many airports.

Rondinella didn’t give up, though. He went out and found airlines interested in serving niche markets.

Hey, Barry, forget the crack about avoiding mirrors. If you’ve got more gray hair, wrinkles and bags under your eyes, you earned them. And don’t get depressed.

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